A war of representations is underway across under-developed parts of India. On one side, projecting itself as standing for the ‘invisible people’, or the sub-aam admi who don’t get a call-in in any democratic process, is the Communist Party of India (Maoist) playing Robin Hood and insisting that they are ‘pushed into violence’ by a boot-stomping State. On the other side is the Indian State, trying to reclaim representation among people across 161 of the 626 districts in India with whom it has, for all purposes, ‘lost contact’. With the latest slaying of two police officers and the abduction of another in West Midnapore, West Bengal, by CPI(Maoist) extremists, we have reached another bloody chapter of this book. And there’s no end to this story in sight.
To say that violence must stop from both ends is as helpful as wanting to rid the world of evil. Both the Maoists and the State are publicly pursuing this ‘we have no other choice’ policy. But both parties have only one real objective: to represent the ‘invisible people’ and in its name. And it is here that the State has a legitimate right to reclaim those people currently being used as cannon fodder. While building roads and hospitals in these undeveloped areas can nip any future extremism among the dispossessed, there is an urgency of what to do in the here and the now. Reclaiming people within the State takes time. The State, even if it is to make up for lost time, is attacked for infrastructure development and the laying of structures of governance. For all the talk about talks between the State and the CPI(Maoist), it’s not as if the latter is interested to sit across a table to discuss a peaceful way out. Home Minister P. Chidambaram is pragmatic enough to know that even if demands of ‘prisoners of war’ being exchanged were met, it would not stop the Maoists’ attempts to impose a ‘class revolution’ through violence. As for the Maoist claim that its war is also caused by ‘noxious deals’ made by the State with private companies to mine and industrialise tribal regions, such a raison de guerre is strictly for those hardwired to believe that violence is a legitimate consequence of (genuine) discontent. In any case, we don’t know of any underhand industries-government nexus in the Bengal district of West Midnapore. So the Maoists’ cause may well be about targeting those who don’t wet their beak and aren’t citizens of their parallel State.
The ball may have started rolling many moons ago because of State apathy. But the ball is now in the Maoists’ court. So will they renounce violence to put the moral ball back in the State’s court? Unlike those clamouring for the State not to hurt those ‘little people pushed to the brink’, the CPI(Maoist) is not stupid.